PostHeaderIcon Word of Mouth Marketing for Small Businesses

Greetings from Lyon, France. My name is Kate Cook and I’m a social media consultant with ThinkInnovation GmbH. It’s both an honour and a pleasure to write a guest blog post for the lovely Terez Howard as we share a similar interest in the world of social media. My guest post focuses on the renaissance of word of mouth marketing. Read on to familiarize yourself on how small businesses can increase their word of mouth marketing by using both on and off-line techniques.

Since the dawn of time, word of mouth has been the most effective and sought-after form of advertising. The idea is simple: if you provide someone with an outstanding experience, they will remember you. And, if you’re lucky, they will share this experience with their peers. 50 years ago, the only real ways to share an exceptional experience with friends were speaking face-to-face, over the phone or writing a letter or telegram. Chances are that the message could have only been received by one or perhaps a mere handful of people at a time. My, how times have changed! With the advent of social media, we are now able to reach thousands of people at a time. All it takes is one tweet, one Facebook status update or one blog entry, and voilà, we’ve just told the world how we feel about a particular brand or product. This is where social media and word of mouth marketing collide.

Let’s stop for a moment just to discuss what it is that makes WOM marketing so powerful.

It becomes very obvious that WOM is the ideal form of advertisement when you compare it to traditional advertising, which is:

  • Made for the masses. Its sheer ubiquity can be overwhelming – often causing us to tune out the “noise.”
  • Not always convenient.
  • Not always credible – since we do not usually know the source of the ad.

Word of mouth marketing, on the contrary, is:

  • Individualized and relevant.
  • Delivered at convenient times – when we are actively listening or welcoming the message.
  • Sent by credible sources – the people you know and trust (your friends, family, colleagues, etc). These sources are considered credible because they have nothing to gain by sharing their experience/sending the message.
  • Voluntary. We, the consumers actually WANT to share our experiences.

Social media has an incredible reach and it is an amazing tool that helps us to share our experiences. Word of mouth exists in a few different forms online, like viral marketing (where messages are spread quickly to create interest and peak curiosity) and buzz marketing (using innovative means to capture attention in the media). These methods have proven very effective for many brands. The challenge however, for small businesses, is that the masses have no idea who you are. In this case, it’s better to focus your attention on your niche market – the people who already know, like and trust you – and get them talking about you with their peeps. How? A healthy mix of on and off-line methods.

Here are a few pointers for small businesses to stir up some wonderful WOM:

1)    Although I see business through PR glasses, I don’t think anyone can deny that good business starts with building strong relationships. That being said, it’s absolutely necessary to take the time to get know your clients. No one likes to feel like a number. Find out what their likes and dislikes are, where they are going on their next vacation, or where they’re from. These basic questions will spark future conversation. You can do this in person or online. (Face-to-face has a stronger effect though).

2)    Do what you can to increase dialogue. Why not comment on your clients’ blog or create conversation in their forums? Just ensure your comments are genuine and thought provoking and not just one-off comments like “cool blog.”

3)    Always do your best to add a personal touch to every communication you have with your client. Make a simple phone call or email to see how they are and if there’s anything they need. Even if the answer is no, they will remember you for TAKING THE TIME. Time is precious and the fact that you are spending it on them demonstrates that you value their business.

4)    Do the occassional favour. Go out of your way for them at least once. I guarantee this will make you memorable!

5)    Continually create compelling and share-able material to keep communication and information flowing. (Think blogs, newsletters, emails and e-zines). These will demonstrate that you are knowledgable and on the forefront of your industry. Not only this but also, long after your mutual project is finished, these materials will help keep your clients in the loop and give them the opportunity to share your information with their peers. It will keep you on their radar and help make you “unforgettable.”

6)    If your clients aren’t proactively spreading WOM for your business, go ahead and ask them to share their positive experience with their friends. You can offer to do the same for them by writing a testimonial for their website.

7) Last but not least – although it might be a bit cliché, I’m gonna say it anway because I really believe it to be true – try to conduct your business by the golden rule: treat others the way you would like to be treated. Nice guys do not finish last…nice guys get good word of mouth and a wonderful reputation that will last into the future.

Your turn: Has a business ever done something outstanding, prompting you to promote them using word of mouth? If so, which communication tool did you use to deliver your message?

About the author:

Kate Cook is a Canadian public relations professional working in Europe. Her specialties include PR writing and social media consultancy. Her true passion is anything and everything to do with relationship-building. To learn more about social media consultancy and PR, follow her on Twitter @thinkinn0vation or subscribe to her blog, “The Yellow Brick Road…to Social Media Oz” at

2 Responses to “Word of Mouth Marketing for Small Businesses”

  • thoward says:

    Kate, I absolutely loved this post. Thank you for sharing this insightful information.

    I particularly appreciated your point about adding a personal touch. I think this is easiest to do in a face-to-face setting. But with a little forethought, it’s not difficult to do in the online world. It shows you care.

  • Kate says:

    It was a pleasure to write this for you! I’m glad you found it useful.

    It’s been my experience that adding a personal touch not only makes your client feel appreciated, it makes YOU memorable. There are a million agencies and providers out there who offer similar services – but at the end of the day, it’s the personal touch that will set you apart from the rest.

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